British health officials said Sunday that gay men will soon be allowed to donate blood for the first time, provided they are not sexually active.
The announcement signals an end to the decades-old ban, reports the Telegraph.
Under current legislation, gay men who have had sex are banned from donating, but due to limited controls, an estimated 7 percent of sexually active gay men still give blood.
But new plans to be announced in the coming weeks by Public Health Minister Anne Milton, will allow gay men to donate blood — but only if they have not had sex for the past ten years.
The 10-year delay is designed to ensure people who are not aware they have contracted HIV do not pass it on accidentally.
An estimated 86,500 people in Britain have HIV, with a quarter unaware that they have an infection. About 42% of people infected with HIV in 2009 are gay men, according to the Terrence Higgins Trust, an HIV charity.
A similar ban on donations from gay men is also in effect in the United States, while the Canadian blood service recently reviewed its policy of banning sexually active gay men from donating blood and decided not to lift the ban.